Sounds Profitable, a media company that among other things, enhances awareness of how money can be made in podcasting, hosted a webinar called “Safe and Sound” on brand safety in advertising on podcasts. It was hosted by partner Tom Webster to announce the results of an internal listener survey of 1,038 people on how offensive content in audio determines their podcast listening habits.
Tom began the presentation by making a comparison of recent offensive behavior between Kanye West as an individual and Dave Chappelle on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live. He pointed out that many brands dropped their association with Kanye because they feared negative association with his brand would hurt their product, but no similar advertiser boycott hurt Saturday Night Live. He pointed out rightly that the medium of Saturday Night Live was not punished for being brand unsafe because it was only one episode of the show whereas brands that were associated with Kanye West would almost certainly suffer.
He used this example to pivot to the world of podcasting to announce the results of what they believe is the first large scale research study into how podcast listeners feel about brand safety and offensive topics, and what will make them stop listening to a show, and even boycott advertisers.
Here are their key findings from their survey of 1,038 listeners:
- “When brands sponsor content that listeners find offensive, podcasting is no different then other media: some listeners will associate the brand with that content”
- “What actually offends most podcast listeners falls within a narrow range”
- By an overwhelming percentage, racist language at 34%, was the highest answer in a survey of what would make the listener feel uncomfortable if heard in a podcast
- A revealing survey question asked if listeners listen to podcasts that involve swear words, opposing political views, vaccines, gender identity, etc and the data showed that listeners under 55 will listen to podcasts with offensive content, but not with racist content
- Listeners older than 55 are more likely to not only avoid offensive content, but will change their listening habits to not hear it.
- “Regular listeners to otherwise non-offensive shows will highly likely return to the podcast after a single episode featuring uncharacteristically offensive content.”
- “People who are passionate about content that might be offensive or unsettling to others are extremely positive about brands that support that content.”
This goes hand-in-hand with their next finding that:
- “The reputation of the host plays larger than the podcast; host safety and suitability is more important than the details of a single episode.”
Another key tidbit that pops up in this and other surveys is that podcast listeners are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans and are more likely to punish advertisers associated with brands they deem offensive. However, they probably aren’t listening to shows they find offensive in the first place. Because of that:
- “Political advertising is dangerous”
In other words, brands that are more closely associated with political content are more likely to have a difficult time finding advertisers willing to stick with them for fear of repurcussion from listeners. However, there are quite a few listeners who prefer some offensive content and what they are against depends on their political persuasion. This also means that people who would never listen to Rachel Maddow or Ben Shapiro won’t know what brands are advertising on those shows because they probably won’t ever listen.
Ultimately, Tom ended the presentation with the point that “no medium can protect itself from the off camera or off-mic actions of its talent” but podcasting has better tools than other media and is usually not live making it a very safe choice for advertisers to put their dollars as long as they do their research on shows that are brand safe.
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